The Underdog with a famous name

And he reads Wodehouse.. My favorite humor writer.. enough said!

This post is going to be on an Indian TV actor. Not so long ago I was  one of the believers that those three words (ok, one is an acronym) don’t go together, so any one else who does believe that, let me introduce you to Mr. Kunal Karan Kapoor. To many people he is Mohan, from the relatively new show on the TV channel Colors- Na bole tum na maine kuch kaha. The show started when I was in India for my three month ‘vacation’ within my long term vacation which could very well be retirement at 30. This post is not about the show per se, so only a few words on it unrelated to Mr. Kapoor’s character. Great casting, I particularly revel in Renu bhabhi’s snide remarks and remarkable shrewdness enclosed in a concrete shell of stupidity and self obsession- I don’t really believe in pure anything, including evil and she is exactly as complex as any of us can be. Waagle ji from my elementary school days, as papaji and all other characters have that- a character, though not as complex as Renu or Mohan.

Why choose Mr. Kapoor for the second person I write about, well it was originally going to be Che Guevara, he will be next- even though everyone and sundry has written about him and what more could I add, subtract, deduce or extrapolate? While Mr. Kapoor is quite talked about in the Indian forums that I don’t really frequent, except for reading a couple of his interviews (from which I deduced I really like him) he is not that written about and I like that too. I think its a lie when it is said that actors cannot be private- many manage that quite well and here I bring out Kevin Spacey for the first time in this post.

Mr. Kapoor is unfortunate  to have the same  name (Kunal Kapoor) as another actor, famous for a role in what some consider a cult movie in India- Rang De Basanti, about the same age as himself- Mr. Kapoor resorted to adding his father’s name in the middle, to avoid confusion and more importantly some embarrassment, I think. In science, this could be a smaller, yet irksome problem, imagine people having to sift through all the journal articles or news stories of someone else in the same field as you, to find you. Now imagine that someone who is looking for you, is you. But at least you are not competing for recognition by the masses- or the casting crew. Especially since they both look somewhat the same and they can both act. Though obviously, since I am writing about Kunal Karan Kapoor, I muchly prefer him.

It is one thing to convince people, hungry for entertainment in a 30 min – 3 hr appearance that they may have paid money for, and quite another to convince people to turn their television sets on to a particular show everyday, especially for a show which is deliberately subtle and has no fancy clothes or sets or people all of which together attract the TV watching crowd.

Moreover it is even more unlikely for people like me, who are born sarcastic with an acidic lining and a well under cover romantic heart,  for TV’s conscienceless ( and may even be unconscious, to the amount of thought that goes into some of the shows) melodrama to grip and hold. Reality TV (a.k.a. the Kardashians) lets the public live vicariously off celebrity madness. And such celebrities usually record the show in between rehab and divorces or simple drunken festivities.

I don’t think thats the case with any of the cast members of NBTNMKK. Mohan convinces me with his narrowed questioning eyes or what some may call smoldering looks, but more by his voice modulation (aapki aankhon mein nafrat..., nahi dekh sakta ), or scratching his head or the hesitant smile and  body language (wherever possible, its Indian TV meant for family viewing, people!). I think most of it and the characteristics are likely to be an extension of his real self- after all it is not easy to shoot 24/7 and be someone else constantly and convincingly. I don’t think he smiles a lot in real life either. I realized later that this sounded as though he doesn’t laugh or is a serious introvert. I don’t know about the latter, which is a very big hurdle for an actor, but you do what you have to- to do what you love to do. So, I am just re writing what I said in response to a comment, I do think he doesn’t smile a whole lot- he may be more likely to laugh- his comic timing is great and I think it has not been exploited to the max in the script. Plus he has acquired the ability to not take himself too seriously- something extremely hard to do if you don’t have a healthy sense of humor..

When he convincingly hugs nanhi, and you feel they are really fond of each other, I would say they truly are.Their chemistry is the best on screen in the show, according to Mr. Kapoor himself. Though, that is not to say thats not acting- the one thing I think any good actor has to be is- complex, like Kevin Spacey or Naseeruddin Shah, they always have to have something inside already that can be molded into the character they are playing. Something that is used to nucleate the beginning of their new role, but has to exist to start with. And they may also have a very amorphous feeling for their ‘self’ so that it doesn’t stand in the way of the character- something that requires an incredible amount of humility, considering the amount of fame some of the good actors accrue and remain good. Or some like Ms Rai- Bachchan never get over themselves to be someone else.

Now for Kevin Spacey there were years of training by specialists at institutes like Juliard, the caliber of which is still quite unattainable in India, just because fine arts are neither well paid nor popular in India. Surprisingly few actors who act well are liked by the masses or even known to them. Unlike movie stars many TV actors don’t haul from a known family, just like Mr. Kapoor, but they also don’t evolve as he clearly has,while in the profession. Whatever training he had in the beginning has been overhsadowed by what I see as self training, he can’t possibly have time for classes once the show started. I am sure the director/producer of the show deserves credit here, and never let it be said that I didn’t give it. He did say in one interview that he was his worst own toughest critic- and that is showing!

Indian TV for me, for the near future, is going to be restricted to and personified in Kunal Karan Kapoor, and I thank all those real life characters who led to those experiences that molded and made him what he is now. Especially those that have given him the perfect forlorn look, though he may never have wanted it. But (then and in the future) he deserves more and if there was any fairness in this world, he will get it too. Whether or not there is (fairness in the world, that is), if he does read this ever, he should know that he has one fan for life, who is currently waiting to be shunned by everyone who knows her since birth for writing about a actor who is on an Indian ‘soap opera’, when in the 3 decades of her life she has never been a fan of anyone, other than Stephen King, George Orwell and Charles Darwin ( and no, while I greatly admire all the other actors named in this post, I am not a real fan of any of them, which would require me to watch all their movies). Lekin mujhe bhi kuch adha adhura pasand nahi…

And yet another loong post, but I cannot end without explaining why Kevin Spacey was mentioned at all.In one rare interview he said that an actor’s job is to convince the viewers he really is the character he is portraying and thats why he himself keeps a low profile. Now the cynic in me knows this and paradoxically still thinks that there is a lot in common between the NBTNMKK character and Mr. Kunal Karan Kapoor…

Again, I don’t think anyone is purely this or purely that.. And I would like him any way..

35 Comments on “The Underdog with a famous name

  1. Thank you for penning this…for those of us whose words will always fall short when it comes to Mr. Kunal Karan Kapoor.

  2. WOW! Lovely piece! I simply cannot explain how this resonates. I could not have articulated this better despite having the exact same thoughts and feedback about the actor and the serial. Personally, am also on an extended visit to India as well, never watch any Indian soaps, cynical most of the time and was introduced to this serial then by others in the house. It has turned out to be such a treat!

    I was amazed with your observations like “I don’t think he smiles a lot in real life either”, only because I have had the exact same thought run through my head – be it while watching an episode or when looking at some of the pictures. As for his voice modulation, I recall especially noticing and marvelling at how he changed the pitch, pace and inflection when he asks for the last time “kis haq…” to megha.
    And your statement about Renu is spot on! In fact, early on, before I started noticing the main characters, Renu’s character was one of the main draws for me.

    I could go on and on. Every sentence I read, I continued to marvel at how close it is to my thoughts. Well..maybe…except for one..I am still on the fence about how much he has in common with the character he plays.

    It was a delight to read. Thank you!

    • Thanks for the appreciation! I don’t really believe he is the character himself! Thats the fan in me who would like to believe it, because I am still ‘on the fence’ ( to steal your words) about whose fan I am, Mohan’s or Kunal Karan Kapoor’s? Ha ha.. Plus from my little experience, there has to be something to think about in a post- even if it is only what- a- crazy- fan- she- is, type of thought!

  3. Spot on I say…a terrific read and I totally agree….he is a tremendous actor. He has portrayed several roles earlier but Mohan is the most endearing.

    And neuroticphilosopher…..I love your wit and the way you write.:)

    • Thanks Rachna, I was told by a cousin “oh, this is the same guy who was in the negative role in Pratigya”, and I do know he has been on other shows, but I have not seen any of those while they were on air, probably just as well. Why not start with the best.

      • Yup he was in 5 shows before this…the first two were very “young” shows….based in a high school and then an army academy. He did really well.As I said, he has something very endearing about him. And as you said, Mohan is the best.

        I too was quite kicked to see that he reads Wodehouse. So few people read these days, that to see and actor read one of our own favourites is nice. For me specially, it made me happy since I feel positively old when I interact with people who look at me with a glazed look in their eyes when I mention books, reading , Wodehouse and Christie!

        Look forward to reading more from you.

      • Hi rachna!

        Thanks for the reply and sorry for the delay in answering. I am not at home right now. Hoping to come back and write all about this wonderful trip to Trinidad and Tobago. And show some photographs of the amazing birds here.

        Thanks so much and hope you see the post on Trinidad and tobago when its done.

  4. Ma’am……….i don’t know what made you write this…..but if ever in his/her life an actor would like to be appreciated……….it would always be in the words like yours!
    you said it so simply but it never took away your passion(if i can say that) for Mohan a.k .a Mr. Kunal Karan Kapoor(as he is the same person for me)…….though being an ardent Indian Soap Opera fan………..i never found myself living with the story or any character………..but this feels so right to be in……….if i am not wrong its the same for you too……..

    • thats very kind of you.. But having lived through the phase of Ekta kapoor’s trash beginning with kyunki saas bhi kabhi.. ( i really have no kind word for those shows, though I think she is smart to know what the people will devour), I can’t say anything about Indian soap operas in general. Thanks again 🙂

    • ohhh……….now atleast i have some evidences that all the ones with this name are sane enough to befriend pen and paper………..!!!!

  5. Amazing article on Kunal.. Very well said, the best words of praise that one can give Kunal… I totally agree with the writer.. Kunal, you deserve every bit of praise showered on you. I’ve never in my life followed any tv serial or liked actors to read their articles and stuff, but you made me do it!! Regarding your smiling.. well I’ve been following several posts of you and seen a couple of videos made by you as well, Have seen your mischievous naughty smile.. Lots of luck and wishes.. God blesss… From one more sincere fan!!

    • thanks.. I hope it didn’t come across that he doesn’t smile at all.. that would be weird, to say the least. I just feel that he thinks before he smiles, possibly every time, likely most of the time.That is not to say that he doesnt have a sense of humor, I think he has great comic timing which has not been exploited to the max in the script. Plus he has acquired the ability to take not take himself too seriously, no one without a sense of humor can do that well!

  6. Thikin hw coud u exactlyy penn such a wndrfull blog abt kunal….feeling good u penned same thoughts abt KUNAL as those of minee…..wonderful….!!!

  7. hey! thts 1 helluva of an aricle on him…
    Its like u stole my words… i put the same things in different words in his message box… 😛 ( simply cos i didnt wantd any of my friends to know :P). bt then later i thot, what the hell n added myself to his page n 1s in a while leave a post.
    he’ a convincing actor n iam sure he’s struggled, observed n learnt through error n xperience. n yes he’s the only one who finally makes me watch serial on TV (PHEW)
    I also say all the characters play their part well.
    n yea… that renu bhabhi part…. she’s like the indian masala to this dish called NBTNMKK 🙂

    • correctly said….seems tv soaps got better wid actors like KUnal ya wud sayhis way of acting is vry much appritiated…:)))

  8. awwww amazing written me too big big big fan of him hee amazing actor & very hard work boy his acting keep rocking like this kunal we love you ❤

  9. Thanks a lot 4 convey this.he is a gr8 actor,immense of d most popular television actor,who proves himself with his talent.i likes his acting.

  10. Hi again! Saw your updates and understand the motivation behind it – at least I think I do. Thought about adding a few updates myself but then it might turn out to be a case of jo bhi main kehana chahoon barbaad karey alfaaz mere …So hopefully what does and should stand out is your neatly summed up last line :).

    • Hi suu,
      Thanks so much for stopping by again! That’s quite something to me, to have you come back. I have a new post on an entirely different topic, actually it’s a repost and I wondered if u would like that too? As for my reasons for what I think and if any of it it true. Most of it is based on his expressions when he isn’t saying anything. At that point, I would think he has to think about something to emote that well! And since he doesn’t talk a lot a lot of the time, there is a lot of room for conjecturing. Pl visit again!

  11. 5.29 am.. too sleepy to read the complete aritcle, all I can say is ‘Great’ at the first looks of it! 🙂 I shall get back to it once I’m recharged again.

    • Just couldn’t get myself to sleep with such a tempting article to read!! Fabulous Ishita! 🙂

      • Thank you so much, especially since I value sleep over most other things in life 🙂 I greatly appreciate that you gave up even a little bit, to read the article 🙂 Thanks again!

  12. Wow Lovely post dear..nothing can be described more than what you have written about Mr. KKK. I am really surprised to see that there are many ppl who have commented here are talking about an actor who works in mediocre and regressive period of Hindi Television. Mr. KKK has definitely freed himself from being typecast in future. He has grown a lot from a sidekick goofy or baddy guy in his previous roles (stressing more on his adorable lisps) where the set up were weirdly young and nrealistic..I had noticed him in Patigya as a baddy for sometime and he had made me hated that character in show and kudos to him for the entire mannerism he had brought in that role..till date I have not found him faltering or missing cues in his scenes and hopefully he will continue like this in future..I am admitting that I will always reamin his fan..There is one good thing about Kunals which one of my friend told that he provides sense to the other characters in the show..The entire NBT cast are fine actors although he makes hem complete. how can he share an amazing chemistry with each and every co-actor of this show, strange but correct.

  13. The article is so immaculately articulated…cudn’t have been better. The smaller nuances which you have picked up to highlight about KKK is awesome. Ur feelings are exactly what I could ever think of about KKK. I just love the way he emotes. Such a fine actor. I hope he goes a long way!!! Kudos to you for writing such a great article…

  14. Well, a great write-up Ishita(got to know ur name frm the above post). Very well summed up. I have also hooked onto the show while I was in India for my vacations. Friends were talking about this unique show, and to my good luck I gave it a chance and since then I have been an ardent fan of this show and especially Kunal. Have always been admirer. Kunal is one immensely talented actor and at the same time such a grounded person. I love his voice. Love the way he has recited the nazm in ssn2, just loved it! He is a treat to watch. And yes, he has one more fan for life.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Hi Barkha,
      Thanks a lot. I have to say that it used to be a good show. I no longer watch it at all, I could not watch the second season for longer than 2-3 weeks. NBT is now just another soap. However, KKK is still good, and as I have said, he does whatever needs to be done to keep doing what he loves to do. I have full faith that given the right opportunity, he will take another leap in his career. I wrote this post a long time ago, and even today- it is the most popular post I have.. Just as a reference to how popular he is and how I don’t usually choose popular things to write about 🙂

      • Kunal is a gem. Just waiting to see what’s next for all of his fans, after NBT. I wish he gets a great opportunity to showcase his talent. And yes, though it is an old post, I have read it so many times. Just that, I am not good at expressing myself, so usually stay away from it. But like I said, its a very good write-up, couldn’t stop myself from commenting.

  15. great article…loved it…u said u didnot watch season 2 bt i will recommend u to watch a few scenes of season 2 specially wen mohan comes to know about the real identity of nanhi and obviously the scenes post revamp..u will love kunal as Vasu (the local goon with a heart of gold)

    • Hi Ankush!! I did watch the episode where he finds out who nanhi was! But I think I stopped somewhere around when the supposed addu tried to kill him and megha. I do love Kunal, I will see if I can watch the episodes as Vasu. I am glad that the production house has decided to finish the show, still on a relatively high note. Compared to anything else on Contemporary Indian TV. Thanks for your comment!!

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